Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Math Is Beautiful and So Are You

 Read on for a poem of love and mathematics! 

    This poem celebrates an upcoming wedding . . .  one of my two wonderful sons will be getting married next Saturday to a lovely and special woman -- and this delightful occasion also will bring a host of scattered family members together.  I am thrilled by all of this and offer, for readers also to celebrate, a lovely poem:

Math Is Beautiful and So Are You     by Becky Dennison Sakellariou

     If n is an even number
     then I'll kiss you goodnight right here, 
     but if the modulus k is the unique solution,
     I'll take you in my arms for the long night.  

Monday, August 27, 2018

Upcoming in Washington -- National Book Festival

     The BOOK WORLD section of this past weekend's Washington POST offers the program for The Library of Congress National Book Festival that will occur next Saturday, September 1, 2018 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.  The festival has a Poetry Stage and two of the poets who will appear have been featured in past postings in this blog.  The posting on August 2, 2018 featured "American Arithmetic" by Natalie Diaz and back on June 14, 2017 was posted a section of "Life on Mars" by Tracy K. Smith.  (Smith is Poet Laureate of the Library of Congress, currently in her second term in that position.)
     Numbers can be powerful in describing hardships of poverty -- as in this stanza from "Theft" -- a poem that appears (pages 57-62) in Tracy Smith's collection duende (Graywolf Press, 2007).

from Theft     by Tracy K. Smith

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Arithmetic of Identity

     There is never enough time to read all that I wish  -- so much poetry and mathematics awaits my attention.  The Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa is one whose work is in my queue.  Recently I have been exploring Pessoa's poetic prose in The Book of Disquiet   (Ed. Jeronimo Pizarro, Trans. Margaret Jull Costa, New Directions, 2017).  Below I offer the first two paragraphs of Section 152, The River of Possession -- I have delighted in their play with numbers and meaning: 

          It is axiomatic of our humanity that we are all different.  We only look alike from a distance and, therefore, when we are least ourselves.  Life, then, favors the undefined; only those who lack definition, and who are all equally nobodies, can coexist.
          Each one of us is two, and whenever two people meet, get close or join forces, it's rare for those four to agree,  If the dreamer in each man of action frequently falls out with his own personal man of action, he's sure to fall out with the other person's dreamer and man of action.

In a later paragraph, Pessoa adds:    Love requires us to be both identical and different, which isn't possible in logic, still less in life.

     Thank you to Portuguese mathematician-poet Francisco Jose Craiveiro de Carvalho -- who led me to Pessoa.  Allen Ginsburg's poem "Salutations to Fernando Pessoa" is available here.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Celebrating Visual Poetry

     One of my delights in both poetry and mathematics is the multiplicity of meanings that come from careful attention to a particular text.  Today I have been revisiting the work of visual-poets Robert "Bob" Grumman (1941-2015) and  Karl Kempton and loving the surprises as I rediscover them.  Visual-mathematical poet Kazmier Maslanka in his blog, "Mathematical Poetry,"  generously features the work of many other poets beside his own -- and here (from this link) is one of Kempton's poems:
by Karl Kempton

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Imaginary Numbers

     Today a fine poem that plays with the meanings of "real" and "imaginary" -- and one that I like a lot.  Its author, Scottish mathematician-statistician-poet Eveline Pye is, like me, these days enjoying being a grandmother.  

       Imaginary Numbers      by Eveline Pye

       A real life ends, but is imagined  
       by those left behind. An imagined  
       death becomes reality, eventually.   

       The square root of minus one  
       can't exist since a squared number 
       can’t be negative 

       but imaginary numbers yield  
       real answers in the real world.   
       The difference between reality 

       and imagination: a false oasis  
       that blurs, shimmers  
       and melts before my eyes.  

Pye's poem is included in the anthology Bridges Stockholm 2018 from Tesselations Publishing.  This article, "Eveline Pye:  Poetry in Numbers" is a great place to read more about the poet and her work.  

Monday, August 13, 2018

Speaking, understanding . . . where is truth?

     A review in the Washington Post of a new book about Oscar Wilde opens with this quote:
"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person."
and Wilde's words have gotten me thinking again about subtleties of language.
     Also in recent news, the death of Nobelist V. S. Naipaul (1932-2018) -- and here is one of  this writer's thought-provoking statements:

            Non-fiction can distort;
            facts can be realigned.
            But fiction never lies.            V.S. Naipaul, A Bend in the River

My own thoughts about language most often focus on the condensed languages of mathematics and poetry -- and the need for frequent re-readings before understanding arrives.  Here, below, I include a poem by Stephanie Strickland that speaks eloquently of the struggles in which our minds engage concerning objects and the symbols that represent them -- struggles that are involved in creating and reading both mathematics and poetry . . .

     Striving All My Life     by Stephanie Strickland

Maxwell said: There is no more powerful way
     to introduce knowledge to the mind than … as many different
     ways as we can, wrenching the mind   

Friday, August 10, 2018

Code switching -- and a Fib . . .

     1       When 
     1        I
     2        speak to
     3        you, I wish
     5        to be understood.
     8        If I change my language for you
    13       am I being thoughtful -- or phony and insincere?

     My recent viewing of the film Sorry to Bother You --  in which a black telemarketer is helped to succeed by using a "white" voice -- has led me to think more about times that I, often unconsciously, switch my language for different listeners.  
     I grew up on a farm and learned early that farmer lingo was not welcomed in my chatter with town friends, and later, as a mathematics professor, I saved my academic and my mathematical vocabularies for "suitable" occasions and did not use them with my farm family or small-town friends.  Indeed, much of my life I have completely avoided math vocabulary in almost all social situations.  Mostly, I have thought of this "code-switching" as politeness, though I can see that it also conceals parts of myself.
      This thinking about "different languages" has led me to look back to a posting from 2013 that involves a fine poem by June Jordan, "Problems of Translation: Problems of Language" that considers measurements on maps.            What does three inches mean?
This link leads to more information 
about poems structured by the Fibonacci numbers.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

American Arithmetic

     Last Monday -- with visiting friends (Janet and Terry) from Pennsylvania -- I again visited the National Museum of the American Indian and this visit, rather than focusing on the contributions of a particular native culture, seemed to draw me to exhibits focused on numbers -- most notably on the figures related to Cherokee relocation via the Trail of Tears.  This visit to the museum also allowed me to discover that a variety of books are for sale in the museum's second-floor gift shop and I found this collection of poetry which I have begun to read and love:
Edited by Heid E Erdrich (Graywolf Press, 2018)
Within the collection, the poem "American Arithmetic" by Mojave poet Natalie Diaz quickly caught my eye -- and she has given me permission to offer it here:

       American Arithmetic     by Natalie Diaz
       Native Americans make up less than
       one percent of the population of America.
       0.8 percent of 100 percent.

       O, mine efficient country.     

Friday, August 3, 2018

Highlighting Poetry-Math Favorites

     Looking back over the eight years of  postings in this blog, I find several items that have stood out in their popularity.  In case you have missed any of these, I list their titles (with links) below.
          The favorite posting, by a large margin, is: 
     "Varieties of triangles -- by Guillevic" posted on October 13, 2010.
Three other postings fall into second place:
          "Mathematical Limericks" posted on March 29, 2010,   
          "Loving a mathematician (Valentine's Day and . . .)" on February 12, 2011,
          "Rhymes help to remember the digits of Pi" on September 2, 2010.
Two more-recent and popular postings are:
          "The World is Round or Flat" on January 8, 2016,
          "Celebrate Math-Women" on March 2, 2017.

The list of labels in the lower right-hand column of  the blog gives the names of numerous mathematicians and topics that are featured in the blog -- and one may click on any label to retrieve the posts.  Additionally, the blog's SEARCH feature may be used to locate postings on a particular topic of interest.